Nature Notes: Arrowleaf Balsamroot

by Josée
Here in the sunny south Okanagan it is spring and the hills are blanketed in the bright yellow flowers of arrowleaf balsamroot. Arrowleaf balsamroot, balsamorhiza sagittata, also known as Okanagan Sunflower, is a native plant that has large silvery-green arrow shaped leaves and yellow sunflower-like flowers. It grows in clumps, reaching a half metre tall, and prefers well drained, open, southerly facing slopes. Balsamroot is a perennial, so it returns year after year, and once established it can send out a hardy taproot as long as 2.5 meters long into the ground!

Deer, bighorn sheep, rodents and birds eat various parts balsamroot throughout the year, and it is an important plant for native pollinators. Balsamroot was also an important plant for first nations people that lived alongside it. All parts of the plant are edible: flower, stem, leaves, seeds and even the root if boiled or steamed. The young leaves and shoots of balsamroot are high in protein and can be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds can be ground into flour or pressed for oil. From my understanding balsamroot isn’t particular delicious to eat, but it makes a good survival food if there is ever a need. First nations people also used balsamroot medicinally. It was smoked and made into tinctures and poultices, for treating a wide range of ailments. There are thoughts that balsamroot has antibacterial, antifungal and immune stimulating attributes.

You can find arrowleaf balsamroot in the western part of North American. In Canada it grows in the south interior of British Columbia and in Alberta and tends to grow alongside sagebrush and ponderosa pines. It is a beautiful, happy plant, and one that is synonymous with spring in these parts.

Source: USDA Plant Guide: Arrowleaf Balsamroot

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Kim April 21, 2015 - 8:37 pm

Gosh it is beautiful!

Ciel April 22, 2015 - 5:12 pm

I love your post – I live just north of you and the flowers are just barely starting…

Josée April 23, 2015 - 12:01 am

I have been in constant awe by these beautiful flowers!

Josée April 23, 2015 - 12:02 am

Thank you Ciel! You must be excited to see them in full bloom. They are magical and uplifting 🙂


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